Sefton Council – will it be buying more shopping centers in the Borough?

Bootle New Strand shopping centre

In what can only be seen as a surprise move last year Sefton Council splashed out over £30m of public money to buy The Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, a move that shocked many in these times of austerity for local authorities.

But it seems that buying shopping centres is quite the fashion for local councils these days as the article below details from the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46625912

I’m the first to say that I’m highly sceptical of such moves by cash-strapped councils – it’s a massive gamble that could go horribly wrong. I had not realised that Wigan Council had purchased The Galleries but having walked around it’s all but deserted upper floor before Christmas you really do wonder what that council can do to bring back the lost retail outlets.

Of course, Sefton Council’s previous big move into retail property development was to take on the rebuild and running of Southport Indoor Market a few years back. This was another hugely controversial investment which I and others on the Council at the time opposed.

But as Sefton and indeed other councils are now firmly into retail property development will this mean other shopping centres locally will be snapped up at lowish prices using borrowed public money? Makes you wonder, especially when private sector owners seem to struggle to find the resources to upgrade down at heel shopping centres such as Maghull Square.

I’m not advocating that Sefton buys up more retail property, because I think it has too much risk attached to it, but if the Council’s Labour rulers really do think that acquiring shopping centres is the next big thing for municipal socialism why stop at Southport Market and Bootle Strand?

Thanks to both Roy Connell and Keith Page for the leads to this posting

Brexit – Where to now for self-destructive Tories?

I like to see sober analysis of important political events rather than hear the views of the biased waring factions involved. Below (with thanks to Roy Connell) is a link to an article by Gaby Hinsliff from The Guardian website which is well worth reading:-

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/13/jacob-rees-mogg-split-tory-party-brexit

That Brexit has always been about irreconcilable differences within the Tory Party is a given and no matter which way any Tory leadership goes the result is the same – more EU splits more internal trouble.

Now don’t get me wrong, as a politician of the left seeing the Tories in deep trouble is in many ways pleasing. However, we are all now deep in the utter Brexit chaos of their making and the infection, for want of a better word, has taken root within the Official Opposition as well!

Our economy is on the slide, jobs are at risk, our position as a trading nation is at best very worrying, hard-won employment rights may be quickly lost, environmental protections watered down etc. etc. The Tories internal war is infecting every part of our society and our economy.

And where now for the Tories? Goodness knows for the party of shambles and chaos

Ambulances – What on earth makes people attack them?

This posting picks up on a most bizarre and appalling trend in vandalism – attacking/vandalising ambulances of all things!

The vast majority of folks will look upon an attack on an ambulance, or indeed ambulance staff, with utter disbelief yet such attacks are happening and far too often. The link below to the BBC website illustrates the problem:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-46511576

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Smart Meters – The saga continues – Could 4m have to be replaced?

I’m indebted to Roy Connell for bringing my attention to this article on the Mail Online* website – see link below

www.dailymail.co.uk/money/bills/article-6435495/Why-4-million-smart-meters-ripped-homes.html

I have covered this matter quite a number of times on this blog site as the rollout of smart meters has been little more than a farce from day one.

There’s nothing particularly new in the Mail story to those of us who have been tracking this saga but it does highlight the utter mess that has potentially been created by industry standard smart meters not being installed from the start of the programme. And that’s putting to one side whether they are needed at all I might add.

The way the energy market is set up we all need to be swapping our suppliers each year to ensure we are getting the best deal but with some smart (or is that unsmart) meters swapping suppliers may be far from simple.

Persoannly I’m sticking with the old meters for now until this crazy situation is fully resolved.

* I don’t recall ever linking one of my blog postings to the Mail before and I do so with more than a few reservations as a progressive politician of the left. Suffice to say I decided that the information in the article outweighed my many political concerns about this newspaper.

Brexit – May V Corbyn – It’s actually not a party political matter

The British media see things in a rather black and white way and often things can be like that. However, in politics especially at the moment, things are actually many shades of grey. Just look at this article from the BBC website about how many Conservative Brexit factions there are:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46386172

And of course, Labour is also split. Their leadership is Brexit leaning it’s just that they want a different deal to the one that May has negotiated. Corbyn, of course, has always been anti-EU. However, lots of Labour MP’s are pro-EU and anti-Brexit although with many Labour constituency party organisations being dominated by Momentum those MP’s hardly ever speak out for fear of being deselected for opposing Jeremy’s view.

So a May V Corbyn debate is actually pointless as fundamentally they both want the same thing i.e. to leave the EU except that Corbyn says he can negotiate a different deal to the one May has come up with.

One leading commentator said this of the proposed debate, which sums up the situation perfectly:-

Mike Galsworthy – ‘As far as I’m concerned… A May-Corbyn debate on Brexit is going to be like watching two flat-earthers arguing over who can explain gravity better’

My point is this, any sensible debate should actually be between May and a representative of the cross-party People’s Vote Campaign. Personally, I’m not bothered who that representative should be but here are a few suggestions – Sarah Wollaston MP, Vince Cable MP, Alastair Campbell, Caroline Lucas MP. I think I would probably plump for Campbell.

Surely no one wants a no deal scenario other than complete Brexit nutters so the real choice in the ridiculous situation the UK now finds itself is between May’s deal and Remain.

However, there could be a point in having Corbyn in the TV debate too so that he has an opportunity to explain how different his deal with the EU would look and how he would achieve it. We get it that Corbyn and the Labour leadership feel they can negotiate a different, even a better deal, than May has done but where will the differences be? We need to see Labour’s Brexit Deal detail or indeed have Corbyn exposed for not having a real alternative at all.

That May’s deal is rubbish seems to be a given across Brexteers and Remainers so staying in the EU is the only really sensible alternative to it unless Corbyn can clearly show why and how his Brexit deal would be better than staying in the EU. If Corbyn can show his Brexit would be better for jobs, the economy, the NHS etc. than staying in the EU then his next step would have to be to get Article 50 extended whilst he wins a General Election and then delivers his deal. A tough ask indeed because he would also have to show why the EU would back his alternative.

With thanks to Roy Connell for thew lead to this posting.

Cycle Routes – They are generally poor

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46179270

As a cyclist, I find this article interesting and to the point. I’ve commented before along the similar lines by highlighting local cycle route inadequacies which I have encountered.

Often segregated cycle routes do not have logical ends and are in effect bits and pieces between destinations. The route from Switch Island to Ormskirk along the busy A59 is an example. From Switch Island to the Maghull boundary there’s a brand new cycle path but it stops well short of Liverpool Road South. Yes, I know that Sefton Council intends to address this but really it should have been done in tandem with Highways England doing the first stretch.

But then moving north through Maghull & Lydiate a safe cycle route has yet to be sorted out. It’s either the busy dual carriageway or pavement for cyclists.

A59 Cycle path becomes narrow pavement at Robins Island.

Then at Robins Island, a cycle path appears again, on both sides of the A59. Generally, it is in good condition but parts of it are not – patches of grass, poorly completed surface repairs & tree roots make the later stages of these cycle lanes poor. But then as you climb into Aughton the cycle route peters out altogether just like through Maghull & Lydiate. This makes the last mile or so into Ormskirk a cycling challenge.

This was the state of the Cheshire Lines Path through Great Altcar Civil Parish in the winter of 2017 – it’s not got any better.

I could illustrate other problem routes where cycling facilities in Sefton and West Lancashire are inadequate but will settle for just one. The Cheshire Lines Path/Trans Pennine Trail. This former railway track is in very poor condition through West Lancs because since it was created there has not been the regular maintenance that is clearly required. Some of the route is now really only suitable for mountain bikes and a once wide path where cyclists could pass each other is presently very narrow in places.

There is much to do to make our cycling routes safe, logical and well maintained.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting